The age of Cloud Computing, hand held devices and flexible working has dawned and it brings with it new possibilities, new technologies and mind blowing amounts of data..
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Mind blowing amounts of data:
It is expected that 2016 will see the worlds internet traffic surpass One Zettabyte (a fivefold increase in the last five years).
One Zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000000 bytes or in terms of physical media, it equates to 212,435,109,741 DVDs (based on the average 4.7 GB DVD-R).
It is predicted that “20,000 times more data, than existed in all humanity 20 years ago, will exist in 2020” James Phillips, Microsoft.
Recently I started exploring a relatively new player to the Business Intelligence Sector, Power BI – an ever extending suite of business analytics tools. Built by Microsoft, Power BI helps users explore data and collaborate / share Dashboards, Reports and Data Insights through a desktop solution, the cloud and mobile devices.
Power BI became available to the general public on the 24th July 2015. In less than a year, it has risen to fame gaining over 5 million subscribed users in over 200 countries, and it has made its way onto to the Leaders tile of the 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.
Over the years I have used a number of the platforms and applications that frequent the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms. Whilst its rise to fame has put Power BI in the crosshairs of the other more established Magic Quadrant ‘leaders’, I personally feel that so far, Microsoft stand out from the crowd on the following factors:
- Ease of use
Power BI is without a doubt, one of the easiest applications I’ve used. Whilst it is a complex application, it is designed for users of all requirements, skills and abilities. Within a day I was able to download and install the application and turn one of our company datasets into a meaningful report (a feat that I found wasn’t achievable using Tableau and our data in its current form).
Microsoft developed Power BI within a community. They listened to the closed beta testers and worked with them to make it a strong, easy to use platform. Following its release to the general public, Microsoft have continued this practice and further enabled their users to make Power BI better by opening its API to enable custom visuals and applications to work with it. New builds of the Power BI application (cloud) are built every week and Power BI desktop is updated every month.
- UK Geocoding
Our work often requires an element of mapping, and over the years we’ve used a number of applications (ESRI Online, ARC Desktop, Google Maps API) to map discreet datasets in isolation of the wider datasets available. Having used combined geocoding and report / dashboard platforms (e.g. Tableau) there is always one limiting factor: these platforms often focus their geocoding abilities on the USA and forget the UK. This results in the requirement for connected databases correlating UK postcodes to Longitudes and Latitudes. Power BI, so far, has done away with this issue. It offers inherent mapping capabilities on UK post codes (as well as Longitudes and Latitudes) that can cross-filter and cross-highlight with the other elements of the report. It saves me importing potentially Gigabytes of data just to geocode one column.
Power BI is an extension of the Office 365 cloud service. We are seeing more and more customers move from physical licence based software (Office products) to the products from the Office 365 suit. Power BI looks to be an evolutionary step forward in corporate dashboarding and reporting. It reduces the need for yet another report viewer as Office 365 users only need to access the published / shared reports via the Office 365 menu or via hyperlinks.
At the time of writing, both the Power BI application and Power BI Desktop are free to the basic user – a subscription is required should you require multiple scheduled refreshes a day, to consume live data, access on-premises data using the Data Connectivity Gateways (Personal and Data Management) or collaborate within the Office 365 platform.
Whilst it was on my radar, It’s presence in the Garner Magic Quadrant anchored my decision to further review Power BI for a practical application. I am happy to say that my experience with Power BI has been pleasant and as a result I have become Microsoft certificated user in Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Power BI. In the upcoming months, we will be implementing Power BI throughout the company and I am looking forward to working with Power BI and seeing it grow and develop with its user base.